Springer Nature's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Programme aims to connect the researchers who are tackling the world’s toughest challenges with the practitioners in policy and business who desperately need those insights to achieve their goals in improving the world, by making our publishing activities more visible to our key communities through a variety of channels. Our newly launched SDG4 hub focuses on Quality Education.
In honor of International Day of Education (January 24) we reached out to some of our authors, editors, and researchers, asking them to reflect on how we can work towards equality and quality in education and how they are helping in the ongoing mission to achieve SDG 4, and how we, as a scholarly publisher, are helping to contribute to these goals by publishing and distributing their research. In this interview we hear from Namrata Sharma.
My research areas include intercultural education, global citizenship, international and comparative education with a special focus on India, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Central to my current work and projects is the aim to contribute to the discourse and practice of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) led initiatives of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED or GCE). Some outcomes from my ongoing studies appear in these successive Palgrave Macmillan publications: Value-creating global citizenship education: Engaging Gandhi, Makiguchi, and Ikeda as examples (2018); and Value-creating global citizenship education for sustainable development: Strategies and approaches (2020). Based on such studies I have developed and taught courses as faculty at the State University of New York. Also, as an independent consultant I engage in projects that help develop global competency frameworks for selected (K-12 primary and secondary) schools worldwide.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations (UN), with active participation by UNESCO, are a response to some urgent concerns for education in the twenty-first century. This includes climate change, migrations due to strife or climate conditions, and the politics of narrow nationalism. Of these goals, Goal 4 focuses on quality education and lifelong learning within the UN’s 2030 Agenda. My work and publications aim to contribute to the discourse and practice of Goal 4 (notably target 4.7) that addresses ESD and related approaches such as GCE to foster global citizens who can meet the current challenges of our time. One of the primary agenda of my work has been to draw from the contributions of voices from the margins into the mainstream discourse on education for citizenship through comparative, contextual studies. It is imperative that the practice of education for sustainable development and global citizenship bring into focus alternative ways of thinking, being, acting, and living that have informed various groups of people and led to the development of sustainable communities worldwide. Taking examples from a variety of regional contexts, I use non-western perspectives to challenge dominant agendas and the underlying Western worldview in the UNESCO led discourse on global citizenship education.
A question central to my studies is to examine what is our respective definition of global citizenship? As recent scholarly work suggests, depending on what definition of global citizenship we adopt, the definitions and models of GCE and its focus on its goals in terms of student outcomes will change. And so, rather than assuming that there is a standard definition of global citizenship, it is crucial to reflect on what definition we choose to use in the process of implementing both GCE as well as ESD. In my work I use a value-creating approach to examine GCE and ESD. In particular, I take the worldwide phenomena of Soka studies in education as a focal point of inquiry. To explain briefly, the term Soka or value creation is an approach to curriculum that emerged in Japan in the early 20th century. It is a learner-centered approach that is focused on the health, well-being, and happiness of each student. The concept of happiness here is described as the ability to lead a contributive life, to create value and meaning for the welfare of self and others, under any circumstances. In contrast to the dominant individualistic-neoliberal paradigm for education, a value-creating education framework at the most basic level aims at enhancing relationships. As an outcome of my studies, value-creating global citizenship education is offered as a pedagogical approach to education for sustainable development and global citizenship in addition to and complementing other approaches mentioned within the recent UNESCO guidelines. Chapters in my recently published volumes develop the theoretical framework around the three domains of learning within the global citizenship education conceptual dimensions of UNESCO – the cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral – and offer practical insights for educators.
My short-term goal is to bring such less widely known perspectives into the discourse and practice of education for sustainable development and global citizenship, and offer suggestions for curriculum, teaching, learning, and policy to address issues including climate change, human rights, and peace, while also engaging with the educational crises posed by current and potential future pandemics. Long-term goals include contributing to teacher education and curriculum development. Across modern, democratic nation states that aim to foster globally competent citizens, it is helpful that the curriculum be dialogic and represent multiple worldviews, and the teachers have the required skills to enable students to understand different perspectives. At a policy level, integrating a more global dimension to learning can include a study of not only the educational philosophies of well-known Western educators, such as John Dewey, but also educators from different geographical regions. For example, university and national directives can deliberate a more substantial use of the educational ideas of Indian educators, such as Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Japanese educators, such as the Soka progenitor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi with relevance for a practicum-based study for teacher education.
It is necessary that school administrators and policy makers be aware of the challenges and impacts of social and structural barriers to learning within classrooms. Researchers can engage policy makers in raising an awareness of social inequalities and inequities. In the field of global education and learning there is still a dearth of academic forums that can effectively engage researchers and policy makers in such urgent discussions. My experience with policy engagement includes my role as an expert with the UN forum Harmony with Nature that advocates an Earth-centered worldview of Mother Nature, also called Earth jurisprudence. As proposed in my recent book (2020), a greater sense of urgency must be placed within education policy and praxis to create a more sustainable world with a central focus within teaching and learning that questions humanity’s long-term approach to Nature, for example, by putting the two issues of climate change and the COVID-19 education crises at the heart of education for planetary citizenship. The urgency of developing planetary citizenship as a cross-curricular theme and as a whole school approach must become a top priority for education across nation-states.
As suggested through a recent survey by Springer Nature, 73 percent of researchers who identify SDG 4 as related to their research describe societal impact as either extremely or very important. It is imperative that good quality research has not just an academic impact that can inform future researchers but also a societal impact, for example, to enhance the UN 2030 Agenda for a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Three constituent elements of a global citizen are developed in my (2020) book as guidelines for action for educators, curriculum developers, and policy makers to guarantee three basic rights to all learners:
Further research studies are required that can contribute to the intercultural dimension of education, exploring questions such as: Is there an inclusion of diverse knowledge systems in curriculum, teaching, and learning? Are teachers and students able to encounter multiple perspectives of viewing self, society, and Nature? (Examples include Ubuntu, Buen Vivir, and Soka.) Is there a selection being offered for curriculum developers from worldwide examples of sustainable development to integrate an intercultural approach to the curriculum?
In line with these proposals, it is necessary to combat the often-unaccompanied assumptions underlying the values, ideals, and narratives of education and engage in a discussion on enabling the learner to navigate through the socio-political realities of life based on one’s personal interests, values, and concerns. There are practical ways in which individual empowerment and relationship building can be developed through formal and non-formal learning so that students have a blueprint that they can take into society, to continue to grow and develop as engaged actors of participatory democracy.
About Namrata Sharma
Namrata Sharma is on the faculty at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, State University of New York, USA. She is an expert with the United Nations’ Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network. She is also an international education consultant, and on the boards of various research centers. Dr. Sharma holds a bachelor’s degree from Delhi University, India; a master’s degree in Education from Soka University, Tokyo, Japan; and a Ph.D. from the University College London – Institute of Education, U.K. Her scholar contributions have appeared in several journals, and she has authored several books including Value-creating global citizenship education for sustainable development: Strategies and approaches (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).